How to get kids to listen
"I call out to my kids but they never listen."
The frustration on this parent's face was clear. We were part-way through a recent parenting workshop I was running when the issue arose.
As the group discussed the challenge this parent was facing I asked, "When your children want your attention, what do you normally say or do?"
There was silence, then the lightbulb moment occurred. Eyes were wide, mouths dropped open...
"I say I'll be there in a minute, or hang on just a sec," said one parent.
"I usually just tell them to be patient," volunteered another.
"I get annoyed at them for interrupting and being inconvenient," was another response.
Heads were nodding around the room as mums and dads realised that when they wanted their child's attention, their kids were reacting exactly the way they had been taught to by them.
While the parents were making demands for action 'NOW!', their children were responding in the same way they had observed whenever they requested something of their parents.
Lead by example
Actions really do speak louder than words when it comes to parenting. Our children look at what we do, and they do it. For example:
"NO SHOUTING IN THIS HOUSE" will not teach our children to use quiet voices.
"Stop hitting your sister when you're angry" is not a command that will be followed by our children if it is accompanied by a parent slapping a child for hitting (or biting, or anything else physical).
Beyond example, are there any other ways that we can encourage our children to listen?
5 tips for getting kids to listen
- 1. Be reasonable in requests. Is what you are asking really necessary? Does it really have to be done right now in the way you want it done? Is there room for flexibility?
- 2. Try not to interrupt your children too much. They may be only "playing", but play is some of the most important work they can do. They may be in the middle of their favourite tv show. Wait until the ads. Show the same respect you expect of them toward you.
- 3. Don't demand everything NOW! Instead, get their attention, explain what you are after, and set a mutually agreeable time table. It might be today, it might be within an hour, or it might be in the next five minutes. But don't demand it now unless it needs to be done now.
- 4. Use gentle reminders. Instead of being upset, making a commotion, and inviting resistance, simply say your child's name and one or two words about what is required. For example, "Josh, please pack your lunchbox."
- 5. Get your child's attention, and speak softer and softer. The irony is that when we shout, people switch off. It's offensive. But when we speak softly they strain to take in every word we say. Your message will get across with focused soft speaking.